QAnon is madness. But believing in it can be rational.

Oliver and Wood’s proposed link between belief in the supernatural and conspiracy theories finds anecdotal support in recent reporting on QAnon. During the pandemic, the far-right conspiracy theory found a receptive audience in online “wellness communities, religious groups and new-age groups” united by “shared beliefs about energy, healing or God,” according to NBC News. Despite QAnon’s pro-Trump political implications, many adherents of hippy-inflected, new-age spiritualities took to the narrative, a development that lends credence to the idea that ideology is less determinative of conspiracism than a psychological predisposition for believing an epic battle between intentional forces (whether they be God and the Devil or good and bad energy) shapes the world as we know it.

Critically, there is reason to think that the percentage of Americans inclined toward such modes of thought may be increasing. Anthropological research has found that in traditional societies, belief in “moralizing, personified gods increases when people are uncertain about the future.” At a time when much of the country is incapacitated by fire and infectious disease, it stands to reason that people might be feeling more uncertain about the future and, thus, more inclined to impose order on chaos by interpreting reality as a proxy war between good and evil agents.

Thus, the psychological benefit that QAnon provides its adherents seems clear: It transmutes feelings of anxious uncertainty and helplessness into moral clarity and purpose.

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